Beams of Dreams

Before television existed the only place to escape into a world of moving images on a screen was the cinema. Those magnificent, and not so magnificent places, where you can escape the real world for a couple of hours or so.

Films were, and still are shown in the cinema by a projector that projects the images by a beam of light. Today, nearly all cinemas have gone over to digital technology, throwing out their 35mm equipment. But it doesn’t matter if it is digital or film the beam of light is still required to create the magic of cinema. Eventually films may be screened on very large screens without a front or rear projection system with a beam of light.

There have been a number of makes and models of projector, lamphouse and sound equipment, employed in creating movie magic. One of the early makes of the dream machine was Kalee, a company that was based in Leeds. The Kalee models were made by a company called Kershaw. They made projector heads and lamphouses. Their models included Kalee 8,11 and 12 machines. Their carbon lamphouses included the Kalee Vulcan and Regal. They were taken over by Gaumont and became Gaumont Kalee in the late 1940s. Machines included the Gaumont Kalee 21, that was considered a very high quality projector. The carbon lamphouses they produced, included the President and Lightmaster. Many projectionists say the President was better than the Lightmaster. Gaumont Kalee also had a sound system called Duosonic.

Other makes of arc included Ashcraft, Peerless and Mole Richardson. When xenon lamps started to take over from carbons, some converted their carbon arcs. One of them was the Peerless. Other makes of projector include the American Simplex, Ross, Westar and British Thomson Houston (BTH). BTH, who were based in Rugby made a projector called the S.U.P.A. (single unit projection assembly). This machine had the amplifier and lamphouse built in. With other machines you could bolt on the sound head of another make. You could also choose the lamphouse. The S.U.P.A. model didn’t allow you to do this. BTH was employed in all Odeons, apart from the cinemas they had taken over from another company. For example, Odeon took over the Paramount cinema in Liverpool, which had Simplex projectors. Later, many Odeon cinemas installed Kalee 21s, before switching to Cinemeccanica. ABC used Ross, later changing to Philips equipment. Some were fitted with Westar.

On the sound side there was RCA (Radio Corporation of America), Western Electric, British Acoustic and British Talking Picture (BTP) among others. Back to projectors there was the Philips FP20 and the 35/70mm Philips DP70 and 75. The DP 70 was the only projector to win an Oscar. There was also the Cinemeccanica range, made in Italy. These included the dual 35/70mm Victoria eight.

Some large cinemas used high amperages in their lamphouses to give more light. Because of this, some machines were fitted with water cooling. This kept the projection gate cooler, avoiding too much heat causing damage to the film. 35mm film is projected at 24 frames per second or 90 feet per minute.A beam of Light went through the film and lens to produce the image that takes people away from their everyday existence. Now there is no film, the movie is on a hard drive but there are still those beams of dreams.

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